About 40 people attended a recent meeting to study how new city zoning would affect East Oakland, though some residents wanted more immediate solutions for the economically depressed area.

The June 10 meeting held at Frick Middle School on 64th Avenue was the last of three big meetings held recently regarding the city’s re-zoning process. Over the last two years, the city has held numerous meetings with residents to give information and receive input on the new zoning regulations.

Residents asked questions and examined maps to see how new zoning would affect their property and neighborhoods. Several questions from the audience steered away from the zoning itself toward frustration about current economic conditions affecting east Oakland.

Resident Susan Walton complained about people taking buses to San Leandro because there’s no decent grocery store near the Foothill Square shopping center at 108th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard.

Yvonne Water, a long-time resident of East Oakland, said Foothill Boulevard between Seminary and 73rd avenues has seen many retail shops, including groceries stores and banks, leave the area. She said she’s attended other community meetings with no results to show for them.

“This used to be a very vibrant neighborhood,” Water said, following the meeting. “We have a lot of young people hanging out in the streets (and) graffiti. We want our community back.”

Barry Miller, a consultant and former city planning staff member, told the audience that the zoning was intended to help bring back the vibrancy of the area.

Overall, the new zoning is intended to bring the city’s zoning maps into compliance with the city’s general plan. It won’t control building architecture, but it will control building density, bulk and height as well as where commercial, industrial and residential buildings can be placed.

International Boulevard, for example, will be re-zoned to reflect the city’s general plan, which calls for more “pedestrian-scale” uses and fewer auto-body shops. Retail will be clustered in “commercial nodes” that are expected to counteract the isolating effect of scattered businesses. The idea is to create a “critical mass” of retail in certain parts of the city.

“I think the proposal coming out of the general plan will make these retail nodes more attractive for banks or supermarkets to come in,” Oakland planner Neil Gray said.

Thursday’s meeting followed two other community workshops for north and central Oakland held in April and May.

The city’s landmark preservation advisory board, as well as a subcommittee of the city’s Planning Commission, known as the zoning update committee, also are vetting the new zoning regulations. The next meeting of the zoning update committee will be held Wednesday, June 23.

The new zoning is expected to go to the Planning Commission this fall for a recommendation and finally to the City Council for final approval. It’s expected to be passed by the Council early next year.

For more information about these workshops and the citywide zoning update, visit www.oaklandnet.com/zoningupdate, call the zoning update line at 510- 238-7299 or e-mail zoningupdate@oaklandnet.com.

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